I have posted these articles from Colin MacGregor taken from the Action Forum of December 1996 and January 1997. Hope they bring back many fond memories for readers of this site.
This article is taken from the Action Forum December 1996 Number 307. Part 2 is available here
Memories of Rainham
Reading the letters and articles on bygone Rainham caused me to reflect on my own childhood in the fifties. Although I am talking only 35-40 years ago it was indeed a very different Rainham. I was brought up in Quinnell Street and most of my friends were children from that area together with Brown and Holding Street. Many of these friends still live in the Rainham or surrounding areas now with families of their own. Most will recall the long hot summer holidays (they always seemed that way) spent playing at the Chalk Pit in Berengrave Lane (now the Nature Reserve) or by the river at Motney Hill where most of us learnt to swim ( holiday by the sea or even a day trip to Margate was a rare occurrence for most of us).
We will all remember such as ‘The House of Many Windows’ (a tall structure in the old Cement Works at Motney by the silos), ‘Gunpowder Island’ (in the Chalk Pit) and many more. These nicknames passed on through generations of children. We used to catch newts and tadpoles every year in the ‘Boola’ (the water in the Chalk Pit). We would walk to these places passing old Nellie Hunter’s little shop in Berengrave Lane. She would have rows of jars full of sweets such as Humbugs, Cough Candy, Pear Drops, etc. You could buy them by the ounce and she would weigh them on her brass scales. I won’t mention the childhood pranks that we would play on dear Nellie, but those who participated will well remember. We would go scrumping in the surrounding orchards for apples, pears, cherries, plums, etc. sadly many of the orchards no longer exist. Other favourite play areas were ‘The Den & Woods’ (now Parkwood Housing Estate), ‘The Darland Banks’ (which thankfully still exist), the banks at the top of Berengrave Lane and Rainham Cricket Field. Games such as Rounders, Hop Scotch, Chase Around the Houses. And then of course were our ‘Seasons’ – not the Spring and summer type – but things like the Barrow Season when tens of soap boxes would be seen trundling up and down our road. (Indeed a pair of pram or pushchair wheels on an axle were a valuable commodity in those days).
Then we had the Marble Season, the Bow and Arrow Season, the Conker Season. I remember a certain tree opposite Nellie Hunter’s shop being stripped of conkers every September. The conkers would be soaked in vinegar or baked in the oven – anything to try to harden them. Some of them would go on to become forty-niners or even higher! Sometime in October we would make ‘Guys’ to be burnt on the bonfire on November the 5th. Rainham High Street would be full of children (myself included) ‘Penny for the Guying’. I can remember building massive bonfires on the land behind Brown Street which is now Northumberland Avenue. (Sometimes these would be mysteriously lit well before bonfire night). Many of the families in the area would have their own bonfires and fireworks. Penny Bangers, Jumping Jacks, Roman Candles, Rockets and many more. Guy Fawkes Night was a night we truly looked forward to. Most weekends there would be a football or cricket match on the Playing Field behind Quinnell Street. Some of these games would be up to twenty a side. I’ll always remember the tireless Mr Veral who would come out and referee the games and teach us the rules. Sadly the Playing Field now is only half of what it was, as to what I consider to be the ugliest building in Rainham (the Telephone Exchange) has been built on our beloved football pitch. I often wonder if Planning Permission would have been granted had this not been a Council Estate (as it was in those days).
Roger Green was incredibly accurate with his memories. Assuming my copying and pasting works, here is his list updated by reference to my 1951 Kellys:
Starting at Orchard Street there was:
70 John Woolley
72 Ernest Wellard
74 Mrs Atkins
76 "Parker's" Sweet shop and Tobacconist
78 & 80 Pullen's seed shop
82 the "Bug Hutch" That we all have so many fond memories of !! :) Bug Hutch Rainham - Royal Cinema
Does anyone remember the lady that worked there in the kiosk where you paid, I think her name was Joyce ? Real dark hair and always very heavily made up.
84 Gray's cycle shop
86 Dennis's Off License
88 The Cricketers Pub
St Margarets Church - At the Church path I seem to remember there being a big old house with lots of broken windows.
From there on with numbers where known....
90 Mrs Evans
90 Raymond Wall Chiropodist
90 Winch, Greensted & Winch
92 Langton & Young
96 Moseley's Bakery, Later Walklyn's Bakery
98 Albert Simmonds
98a Edward Russell
100 Ronald Tapsell
102 Alfred Nobbs
104 Green Lion Pub
106 & 108 Vyes Grocers (Now Hidsons)
112 Rainham Pet Shop (Now Hidsons)
114 Stan's Cafe Later the Orion Cafe (Now Hidsons)
116 Ron Smiths Barbers (Now Hidsons)
118 Watt's residence (Still there)
120 Watt's Chemist shop (WATTS THE CHEMIST )
122 "Halrose" Hodson's tobacconist
124 The Wool shop
126 Fred's cafe
128 Pilcher's Greengrocers
130 Filmer's Builders merchants
132 Mrs Ada Swindell General stores
134 Abbott's Shoe repair
136 R McKerns Upholsterer
138 Mary Watts Outfitter
140 Rodwells Bicycle shop
142 Albert Connelly The Sweet shop
144 Strevens Wallpaper shop
146 The Fish & Chip shop owned by the Cracknell's & the Ropers
150 Private house. Dave Ward lived here for anyone that remembers him.
152 Albert Barden
154 John Evans
156 Longley Nurseries
160 Large house with pond behind Henry Bell
162 Durells Repairs (Garage)
164 Walklyn Ltd Bakers
166 Kemsley's Butcher"s
168 Joseph Holloway
170 Leonard Deed
172 Cecil Adams
174 Dr Longford's Building
184 George Naylor
186 Granville Henthorne
188 Bertie Strevens
190 William Fraser
then Miers Court Lane as it was then known.
Driving through Rainham on my way back from Sittingbourne today, I noted the following restaurants. The Man of Kent Pub is now Darjeeling Heights (Indian) then, just past the Chocolate Box sweet shop there is another indian called Tandoori Parlour. Next on the corner of Pudding Road there is Hons (Chinese) moving East to where Bardens the Greengrocers used is The Olive Tree (supposed to be Italian), then, further along the High St we come to The Raj Rani (Indian) this is where the old bakers shop that I knew as Cremers was just past Station Road. Opposite this where Pullens the corn merchants used to be (next to the Bug Hutch) is another indian called Meridian Spice. There is also a Thai restaurant in The Green Lion Pub. As well as these eating houses, we have The Rose Pub, The Cricketers, and The Manor Farm (the old gas show rooms at the bottom of Maidstone Road), all these places serving meals. There are also two cafes in the Rainham Precinct and another one further along the High St opposite Orchard St. Also several take aways and two fish and chip shops.
There are many more eating places in the area and I might have missed some but the ones I mention are just on The A2 between Otterham Quay Lane and Maidstone Road.
When I was a teenager, I knew of two cafes in Rainham ( Freds and and The Orion) and two fish and chip shops. None of the pubs sold food apart from crisps and peanuts. Jeez me gran will be turning in her grave, no wonder we are getting fat!
I used my bus pass again yesterday and I took the bus from Hempstead valley Shopping Centre to Medway Hospital in Gillingham. I noticed two things whilst on the bus. The first thing is, there is still a small patch of woodland on the Park Wood Estate off Deanwood Drive across to Mierscourt Road called Foxborough Woods, It It seems to me that this is the only remaining patch of what we used to just call The Woods. It makes you realise just how big " The Woods" were before Parkwood and other areas were built. The Maidstone Road entrance was a track opposite The Queens head pub which is now where Deanwood Drive starts. The woods stretched all the way to the top of Maidstone Road behind all the houses on the left going towards Bredhurst right to where the M2 Motorway cuts through. They then stretched right across the valley to Mierscourt Road at Farthing Corner (The Motorway Cafe), down nearly as far as Arthur Road. Our bottom entrance was up the Church Path in Rainham past the end of Tudor Grove, Broadview Avenue, Herbert Road and Arthur Road. All these roads had dead ends at where Lonsdale Drive is today, and all that is left is this little patch called Foxborough Woods. How many woodland animals and birds must have been driven out to make way for houses?
The second thing I noticed from the bus, is that they are now building houses on the area of land where Orchard Street school canteen buildings used to be, across the athletics and football field at the Maidstone Road entrance. A lot of the kids hated school dinners but I loved them and it was probably the only good meal I got in the week.
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